Clerkship Update: Palliative Care

I had an incredible experience on my palliative care rotation. Going into it, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Whenever I informed people what rotation I was in, many wrinkled up their faces and said, “Ooh, it’s got to be depressing being around so many dying people”.

I have to say that my experience was quite the opposite. It is a different way of practicing medicine. Rather than focusing on curing a patient, one is focused on making them as comfortable as possible as they navigate the last months, weeks, days, hours and seconds of their lives. I found it a true privilege to accompany people on this journey.

I very much enjoyed how much time I got to spend with each patient and their families on a daily basis. It was certainly never easy discussing a short prognosis but in some ways, families found relief in having an idea of their loved one’s trajectory and in knowing they would be kept as comfortable as possible. The main things that impact heavily on dying patients, particularly in the context of terminal cancer, are pain, nausea, lack of appetite and a progressive sense of loss as they decline in function. Although it can be  difficult to do much about the loss of function, it is staggering to see how much better a patient feels when their pain and nausea can be controlled.

On this rotation, I worked with an excellent interdisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, social workers, PABs and art therapists.  I was truly inspired by their dedication and compassion for our patients.  I certainly struggled with my emotions when I lost a patient (which was almost on a daily basis) especially seeing the profound impact on the family members left behind. I truly treasure the meaningful connections I had with patients and their families on this rotation.

I also had the opportunity to participate in home visits. There was something especially touching about being able to go into a patient’s home and deliver care to them in an environment where they feel most at home.

Overall, my palliative care rotation was one of my best experiences in medical school. I encourage medical students out there wondering what electives to take to strongly consider taking it. It will change your perspective on life.

As my fourth year of medical school continues, I feel my confidence as a doctor-in-training progressively growing. There is still so much to learn of course. One of the great things about medicine, is the challenge of constantly growing and learning new things. As I ponder the current stage in my training, I am so grateful to be on this path to becoming a doctor, as difficult and challenging as it can be.

Featured image courtesy of https://www.medstarfranklinsquare.org

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All Medical School Applications are in…Let the Waiting Games Begin!

Today I submitted the last of my medical school applications and it was a very rewarding feeling to hit the final “submit” button! I have also verified that the universities I have applied to have received all supporting documents and transcripts so I am relieved that this is all under control!

I have one last exam to do at the end of October, the mysterious CASPer exam (required by a few medical schools in North America) which is a 90-minute online exam with various scenarios in video and written format. I found some sample questions online that I have started working on.

In preparation for any potential interviews, I am practicing interview questions with my husband and have started reading through an interesting eBook called “Making Evidence Matter in Canadian Health Policy“. So far I have learned an incredible amount of useful information on Canadian healthcare (with some comparisons to healthcare in other countries) and I realized that some of my perceptions of the system were actually inaccurate. I also came across this useful website that has a plethora of ethics scenarios complete with commentaries to guide you through the thought process.

I am excited that this Fall season is promising to be very busy with some new activities at my church. Not only has the weekly “Women’s Morning Out” started back up (a fun morning of exercise, bible study and prayer) but I have also started teaching Sunday school to a cute bunch of 4 to 5 year olds (my little Caleb included) on Sunday mornings.

This past Sunday school class was a lesson in my perfectionism going right out the window. Between one child running around a table frenetically and another trying to eat play-dough, I ended up not sticking to my lesson plan and had to improvise to keep the children focused on what I was trying to teach them. After the class, I then raced down to the church sanctuary to take my place at the piano in time for the worship songs. It was a hectic but very fun day!

Today at the ‘women’s morning out’, as we exercised outside in the crisp Fall air, I felt really grateful to be in the company of people who are so accepting of you just as you are. We are a group of all ages, shapes and sizes! Back inside, as we studied the Bible, talked and prayed for each other, I felt completely blessed to be surrounded by a great group of women who are supporting me in my dream towards medical school and who are keeping me uplifted in prayer.

So as the waiting game begins towards the next step to medical school, I am reminded that no matter the outcome, I have so much to be grateful for already. Getting into medical school would be an added blessing to my life that is already enriched by so many wonderful friends and family.

Image courtesy of num_skyman at freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy of num_skyman at freedigitalphotos.net